What’s cooking?

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by Patrick O’Connor

THERE it was. In the middle of the article. In black and white – a simple sentence which exposed the whole sorry sham in five succinct words. “White didn’t do any cooking.”

One of my main bugbears when it comes to what’s on the telly in the UK, is the cult of the ‘celebrity  chef’, and there, in a national newspaper article about Marco Pierre White, was my defence in a nutshell.

To me, White, Gordon Ramsay and their ilk are just cooks. Nothing more, nothing less. But in an age where television moguls are continually trying to justify their grossly inflated salaries someone, somewhere decided that cooks should become celebrities.

In years gone by we have had Fanny Craddock and Delia Smith, but the TV shows featuring both these ladies were very low key affairs. Now it’s all hype and very little cooking.

Apparently Marco Pierre White earned three Michelin stars at the age of 33 so obviously he knows how to boil an egg. But it is now being reported that his debut US television show Chopping Block has been dumped from its prime-time slot, less than a month after a high-profile launch.

The Yanks don’t like his “grumpy disposition and ironic sense of humour.”

The Washington Post’s TV critic (not their food critic you will note) described White as “a bloated and gloating bully who nibbles at dishes and either mildly praises or wildly assails those who threw them together.”

The show features eight pairs of chefs as they bid to restore the fortunes of an abandoned New York restaurant.

“White didn’t do any cooking but instead passed judgement on their food,” said the report.

Maybe if Marco had stuck to what got him the Michelin stars, he might have done better instead of trying to emulate the foul-mouthed Ramsay.

The never-ending search for a winning TV formula often leads to dumbing down, often dumbing down  unsuccessfully as one pair of British comics are currently finding out to their cost.

James Corden and Matthew Horne were two of the stars of the highly successful and praised BBC comedy Gavin and Stacey. On the back of that they paired up again for a TV comedy sketch show and their own film, Lesbian Vampire Killers. Both ventures have been savaged by the critics.

Perhaps the boys need to go back to basics, such as remembering that Gavin and Stacey was written by Corden – and Ruth Jones who plays Nessa in the series. Maybe he chose the wrong partner to pal up with.

However in an entertainment world filled mainly with dross there is the odd uplifting moment. Channel 4 has announced that it is about to go into production with the sixth series of the comedy Peep Show.

The channel’s head of entertainment and comedy Andrew Newman commented: “In terms of being a ratings blockbuster, it’s not particularly successful, with 1.5 million viewers or so. It certainly doesn’t make money for Channel 4.”   He went on: “However, we’re not a private company, at least not at the moment, and we think it is a great thing to have a show that for the majority of those who watch is one of their favourites.

“The depth of feeling for it is immense and it is great that the British broadcasting system allows for a show adored by 1.5 million people, as well as shows that get three million, four million, five million viewers, but for which the viewers don’t have the same level of feeling.”

Well done Channel 4. My praise would have been even higher if I hadn’t just noticed that their schedule this week included Come Dine With Me, Planet Cook and worst of all, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare USA!

!Note – “What’s cooking?” is used as an idiom, it means “What is happening?”

There are more food related idioms here.